How Words Should Be Used to Build Up and Not Bring Harm
There is little doubt in my mind that no commandment is more under-understood than the Sixth. Partly that is from our limiting what it means because of how much of what is required steps on a number of our toes. If we can make it just about wanton murder that lowers the chances we could be doing something that might break it. I’ve said before that God has ordered His law in such a way that as the statutes are unfolded each one builds upon the one that came before. There is a logic as to why the call to Honor Father and Mother is listed at number five and thou shalt not kill is at six. It is the interest of the Lord to see His people built up in faith, and as the Apostle’s presentation of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 is proposed in a natural way to rightly gird oneself in spiritual protection so to are the words of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. They are given to entrust the Christian with the means by which to know not only what Jehovah requires, but why it is good for us.
Here are today’s Q/A’s from the WLC:
Q. 134: Which is the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.
Q. 135: What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavours, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defence thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physick, sleep, labour ,and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.
In the commentary on the duties towards equals (same could be said about superiors and inferiors) in the Fifth we heard the Catechism explain that we are to seek the best for our neighbor, even if it comes at our own expense. As you read Q.135 above you will see that this comes into play in this commandment by including not only an encouragement to make sure your neighbor stays physically alive, but that you use your speech to bring a helpful word to their overall being rather than seek to destroy or belittle via dishonoring talk. It is also a feature of the call to obedience that compassion and meekness mark the believer in their treatment of others. What does that have to do with not murdering people? Well, take a moment to remember what Jesus says in the Sermon On the Mount.
In His discussion of the Sixth Commandment He notes:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
When we went over that passage last year we talked about two things: 1) That Jesus was not correcting the Old Testament, 2) That the love we are to show to one another includes how we talk about them when they are not around. As I remarked before we usually associate that behavior either with the Third or Ninth Commandment. Yet it is important that we remember that in the call to bless (and not bless your heart) others comprehending the effect of negative speech and the long term consequences it can have for the personal flourishing of a person is vital. It is somewhat ironic that the Puritans, who are often charged with being unfeeling stoic stick-in-the-muds, would see and understand something that any secular psychologist would tell you today.
Words can have a physical effect on people, which can lead to real health consequences. Before you turn to your seated neighbor and say something unkind about someone else think about what Christ would have you say in the moment. We are certainly not to lie, if an individual is muttering untruths correction is the right and loving thing, however, gossip which desires not the bettering of the individual being gossiped about is sin. Matthew 18 and other passages require us to go and be present with that person and to seek their sanctification, which is also good for physical and spiritual health, both for them and the community of faith.
Another duty mentioned in the Sixth Commandment which may not get much press when we think and talk about it worth considering this morning is the warning to ensure that Believers are to be moderate in their use of, “. . . meat, drink, physick, sleep, labour ,and recreations.” We are not to eat, imbibe, work, seek medical help, or play in such a way that would harm our bodies.
Why has God made us? To glorify and enjoy Him forever. If we are to be desiring eternity than why does it matter if we get to Him sooner while engorging our bodies with calories, or free-climbing El Capitan? What we are reading there is a reminder that the Lord cares for our goodness both in this life and the next. One of the ways the Gnostic heresy can effect the way we consider the Christian way of existence is by telling us what we do with our bodies is immaterial, what truly matters is the spiritual. However, that is false. God has made our humanity consist not only in soul, but in form as well. We are to be sensible and not unnecessarily destroy through being unwise in our health habits and ignoring the counsel of doctors, nor are we to seek to circumvent the aging process by selling our wallets to snake oil men. The catechism also reminds us to have a, “. . . patient bearing of the hand of God”.
In closing, it is worth our while to spend time today meditating on this commandment. There is so much meat here (no pun intended) that a determined consideration of how the Sixth can be of benefit to our personal happiness will lead us not only to more pleasure in this life, but also to a dear thanksgiving for all the blessings of the life to come.
Also, don’t kill people, literally.
Here is a word about a sin we don’t think about very much:
By His Grace,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church